Who’s been the biggest influence in your life?
That’s a question I recently posed to a group of eight or ten of our congregation’s leaders during a delicious Saturday morning breakfast at The Ranch. And almost to a man, the answer was: “My dad.”
Granted, there were influential teachers, uncles, and pastors. There were influential sisters, mothers, grandmothers, and aunts. But the BIGGEST influence? Dad.
Of course, that makes sense. Perhaps you have your own image of the iconic American dad, teaching Junior how to hit a baseball or throw a football. Maybe your own father taught you the perfect cast to land the lake’s biggest lunker, or some other pertinent & entertaining life skill.
And perhaps your own dad taught you the basics of budgeting or consoled you with sage advice after the love of your high school life dumped you the week before prom.
But is that all Dad does? And what happens when Dad isn’t in the picture (or worse, Dad is present in the home but not involved, and all Dad does is chow down on Cheetos while consuming ESPN’s Top Ten?)
In other words: What happens when Dad (readily acknowledged as massively influential) isn’t really there?
I would suggest (especially on this Father’s Day) that dad cannot avoid the fact that he is a huge influence in the lives of his children . . . and as long as Dad lives in denial of this fact, he will harm - rather than help - his children.
Not to pin every social ill upon absent fatherhood - after all, how many absent fathers got past that ESPN line? – but Dad is the God-designed, God-designated person to train children into Godly, moral, upright citizens. (In that order, by the way.)
What would our churches look like if Dad took the time to teach his children the basics of the Bible? After all, God has specifically given Dad the responsibility to teach his children. That responsibility does not rest with the school, or the church, or the pastor, or the people who actually attend church while Dad sleeps in on Sunday morning. (But at the same time, the pastor and the other Christians are there to support the family when the father has fallen short.)
What would our society look like if Dad taught moral accountability, integrity, and character - and stood up for the authorities when Junior gets busted for breaking the law, rather than playing his own version of Monopoly’s “Get out of Jail Free” card? (And as a corollary - having the good sense to go to bat for Junior when s/he is wrongfully accused or inordinately made an example of?)
That sounds like a sufficient soapbox for Father’s Day. I hope that I have overstated the present state of fatherhood to the point of creating a straw man argument, although I fear that this scenario may prove true in far too many households.
My point is this: Your fellow citizens and fellow Christians can do their best to compensate for absent fathers. Passionate teachers pour an incredible amount of effort and heart into training their students. Caring Christians support and encourage the Christian education of the youth at all levels.
With tremendous effort and tremendous influx of resources, church and society can do their best to compensate for absent dad.
But there’s no replacement for a father who invests time and energy teaching his kids more than sports. Dad, you are tremendously influential in the lives of your children - for better and for worse.
Please take the time to make your influence “for better.”
Your city, your country, your church – most of all, your Lord – thank you.